Isn't anyone upset with all the plans for the execution of Timothy McVeigh? I can't think of anything positive to say about him or am I able to offer any justification for bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The person responsible for the killing of one hundred and sixty-eight innocent Americans is obviously a very sick and troubled person. However, we are at risk of coming down with a similar sickness. There is something unseemly about all the clamor to witness the execution of this mass murderer? Family members, the press, and ordinary Americans want access to the closed-circuit broadcast. Why? Some family members say that they need closure; it's their way to put that horrible tragedy behind them. Others, who didn't have relatives killed in Oklahoma City, merely want to watch a heinous murderer die for his deeds. The media wants access to this 21st century version of a public hanging for a rating bonanza. This would be bigger than a WWF wrestling-mania. I can understand Madame Defarge wanting to witness this execution. After all, she had to watch the executions during the French Revolution in the hot Parisian sun. Not us, we want to watch the lethal injection guillotine work its wonder from the comfort of our family rooms.
There are many tragedies related to the Murrah Building bombing. The tragedy of those innocent Americans is beyond our control; they are dead. But why compound the tragedy of this loss by losing our minds over McVeigh's execution? Yes, the bombing was a horrific, cowardly, and premeditated act of terrorism. However, we run the risk of allowing McVeigh to bring us down to his level. After all, we are the sane ones here, but soon many of us will be replicating McVeigh's mentality. This ghoulish closed-circuit execution provides us with the opportunity to self-righteously condemn the act of a crazy person by watching his execution while becoming more like McVeigh than any of us will be comfortable with.
Why did McVeigh kill all those innocent people in the Murrah Building? To get even with those who killed the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. Regardless of the how you feel about Waco, how did McVeigh's terrorism in Oklahoma City bring back any of those that died in Waco? Again, I'm not a supporter at all of David Koresh, Timothy McVeigh, or any of their followers; I think that they are troubled and wrong. I'm only concerned about us. However, if we aren't careful, we will catch McVeigh's illness, and the irony is that we are the ones that are inflicting his illness upon ourselves-not him. He felt justified killing one hundred and sixty-eight people because of the Branch Davidians' deaths. Now, we want to put closure on this by broadcasting his execution to those present-day Madame Defarges who can't get front row seats. In our technological world, we are now ushering in the era of virtual executions. This is not only ghoulish, but as Shakespeare said centuries ago: "and a sickness too took root."
Some will say, "You would feel differently if you had lost a loved one in the Oklahoma City bombing." Absolutely. I might feel just like the families clamoring for blood and justice. However, just because I feel rage doesn't make it right. Actually, the fact that I did not lose someone allows me to see things more clearly than those who are desirous of retribution and revenge. I'm for locking McVeigh up and never allowing him to see the light of day, but having this virtual reality semipublic hanging is absurd.
Four millennia ago, Hammurabi, the great Babylonian king, wrestled with the question of crime and punishment. He first issued the degree that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth was to be the law of the land. That was an improvement on juris prudence of that time-four thousand years ago. Clearly, it is time for us to improve upon his concept. It seems to me that an eye for an eye merely allows all to wind up being blind. We are the ones that think of ourselves as sane in comparison to McVeigh and his type. Yet, we are acting like a mob wanting to enjoy a public hanging. We want to watch him twist in the breeze (or rather watch him twist and squirm as he is given a lethal injection and dies). How many of the victims' families and us would have rather watched him die in an electric chair or even at an end of a rope? If you have felt that desire for revenge-like all of us, then you have blurred the line between McVeigh and us, between evil and good, and between barbaric and civilized.
This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 4/30/01.